Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)

Module MUSI3721: Studies in Symphonic Analysis

Department: Music

MUSI3721: Studies in Symphonic Analysis

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • MUSI2611 Theory and Analysis


Excluded Combination of Modules


  • This module introduces students to the range of theoretical, analytical and contextual issues surrounding the analysis of the symphonic repertoire from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. It develops a thorough understanding of the analytical problems to which symphonies and symphonic works give rise, paying attention to issues of formal, tonal and thematic analysis, large-scale matters of cyclical organisation, and also broader questions of narrative and extra-musical meaning. The module focuses on eight case-study works spanning the period 1780–1940, which altogether appraise symphonic composition in its high-classical, post-classical and modernist forms. In each case, analytical issues are related to the genre’s social and cultural-political circumstances, from its origins in the Enlightenment to its revival after the First World War.


  • The module comprises three parts: the high-classical symphony; the symphony after Beethoven; and the symphony after Mahler. It considers eight case-study works in detail – Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, Liszt’s Les Préludes, Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, and Vaughan Williams’s Fourth Symphony – which span the gamut of repertoire from the high-classical style to the Second World War. Classes address the works’ historical context, and offer a detailed analytical commentary designed to supply a thorough engagement with formal, structural and interpretative issues.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain an essential grounding in the analysis and historical understanding of one of the most important genres of Western art music, which augments their learning in Historical Studies I and II, and also applies in a generically specific context techniques considered in Level II Theory and Analysis.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students should be able to:
  • 1. Grasp the key theoretical, analytical and music-historical issues surrounding the analysis of the symphonic repertoire.
  • 2. Apply theoretical techniques in the analysis of symphonic works.
  • 3. Evaluate the core analytical and musicological debates attending the symphony over 150 years of its history.
  • 4. Understand the aesthetic, political and socio-cultural implications of symphonic practices.
Key Skills:
  • 1. Students build knowledge of theoretical and musicological concepts that are fundamental to the understanding of the symphonic repertoire. 2. Students learn how to apply theoretical knowledge in a generically specific way. 3. Students learn how to link core knowledge in the fields of analysis and historical musicology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is taught by weekly lectures, which focus on core repertoire, and through small-group seminars and tutorials, which reinforce learning through engagement with cognate works. The module is assessed by submission of two equally weighted summative essays, in which students apply theoretical and musicological knowledge to representative symphonic works. Formative assessments are also submitted, which relate directly to the work undertaken in seminars and tutorials.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 19 Weekly 1 hour 19
Seminars 6 Termly 1 hour 6
Tutorials 3 Termly 1 hour 3
Reading and Preparation 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Analysis Essay 1 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Essay 1 3,500 words 100% No
Component: Analytical Essay 2 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical Essay 2 3,500 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Three formative assessments in Michaelmas, Epiphany and Easter terms, each of which tests the security of core knowledge. Each Formative is linked to the seminar works: Formative 1 covers Haydn’s Symphony No. 44; Formative 2 covers Franck’s Symphony in D minor; Formative 3 covers Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University